For those of us who know construction workers and heavy equipment operators, I am sure most of them are males. Lets face it, shopping and bulldozers just don’t seem to match up all that well; however, many of us will be surprised to learn that there are more women employed in construction and heavy equipment industries than we would think.
The U.S. Department of Labor Women’s Bureau keeps track of statistics for nontraditional occupations for women. Here are some relevant statistics in construction and heavy equipment occupations.*
Although the statistics do not show a high percentage of women involved in these occupations, it is obvious that hundreds of thousands of females across the United States are interested in or already are employed in construction jobs, including heavy equipment operating. Similar trends hold true for countries outside of the United States as well. The following is a summary from an article written on November 8, 2007 by Matthew Craze on Bloomberg.com entitled, “Andean Women Use Gentle Touch to Conquer Monster Mining Trucks”:
South America’s mining industry is being flooded by women who come mainly from the Andean Mountains to work as mining truck drivers. The main reason the women do this is because it greatly increases their income compared to typical work in the villages and communities they live in. As would be expected by some, the men did not believe that these women would last under the harsh mining and weather conditions; however, many women feel the same way as mining truck driver, Patricia Guajardo, who said, “The winters can be very harsh, but I love it.”
Despite concerns or issues regarding the performance of these female equipment operators, many industry personnel actually say the women have a better touch in operating than some men do. Cristian Silva, a truck and earth-moving equipment trainer for Caterpillar, Inc., said “Women tend to take more care of the machine and don’t abuse the brakes or the engine…Operating the machine better means more profits.” This is one of the main reason mining companies in South America, such as Barrick Gold Corp. and BHP Billiton Ltd, like the female operators—their performance actually cut costs and increase output.
It is a win-win situation with these South American women becoming equipment operators for mining companies. It not only allows the women to increase their lifestyle and show their capabilities but it also brings in profit for the mining companies. There have been few minor difficulties in hiring women operators (some have legs that are too short to operate and it can be hard to find them because many women stay home with children). Despite these obstacles, it has been a positive experience for both the women and mining companies of South America.
Until 1993, women were banned from working at mines in Chile. By 2005, women made up 4.3 percent of the mining workforce in Chile, according to Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer.*
So it appears that it is safe to say that women can experience success in construction and heavy equipment work, just as men can.
*(1) Nontraditional Occupations for Women in 2006. U.S. Department of Labor Women’s Bureau. Retrieved November 26, 2007 from http://www.dol.gov/wb/factsheets/nontra2006.htm
*(2) Craze, Matthew. (November 2007). Andean Women Use Gentle Touch to Conquer Monster Mining Trucks. Retrieved November 22, 2007 from http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601100&sid=aAR9kj8RyLyU&refer=germany.